Cardhu Distillery,(pronounced 'car-DOO') is one of the best located distilleries in Speyside. High on the hills on the north side of the Spey Valley with extensive views to the south, it is also the home of Johnnie Walker, the number one blended Scotch whisky in the world. Cardhu means 'Black Rock' in Gaelic. The distillery was renamed "Cardhu" in 1981 in order to avoid the confusion between Cardhu the trade name and Cardow, which was the name of the distillery.
By the time John Cumming bought a license for his Cardhu distillery in 1824, he and his wife Helen had already been smuggling and producing illicit whisky for 13 years. Whenever the Excise officers passed by, Helen would disguise the mashing and fermenting as bread-making. Then, while the officers drank the tea she made for them, she would fly a red flag from the barn to warn their neighbours that revenue men were around.
Once the distillery was officially licensed, John and Helen Cumming continued to value quality over quantity. In 1885 the distillery was rebuilt on a new piece of land but continued to stay in the hands of the Cummings, being run by Elizabeth Cumming, the daughter-in-law of Helen Cumming. The qualities of the malt they produced became essential to John Walker and Sons (of Johnnie Walker fame). So much so, in fact, that in 1893, Cardhu was the first distillery that they bought – although it was still run for a time by the Cumming family. It is now part of the Diageo Group.
Cardhu continues to be successful and with annual sales of more that 3 million bottles, it is the 6th best selling single malt in the world.